By  on July 13, 2005

NEW YORK — After an eight-and-a-half-year run, Peter Connolly, president of global marketing and communications at Tommy Hilfiger Corp., has exited the firm.

"I've done everything, and it's time to move on. There are several things I am looking at," Connolly, 47, said Tuesday. He said he will stay on through Hilfiger's 20th anniversary fashion show on Sept. 9, and then plans to travel with his wife on mopeds throughout Europe for two months.

During his tenure, Connolly created multimillion-dollar marketing initiatives and ad campaigns that took the Hilfiger brand into the world of pop culture, sponsoring major music events and signing celebrities and famous progeny. Although it's been a bumpy road for Hilfiger in recent years, many of his initiatives created buzz and brand recognition.

When Connolly joined Hilfiger in March 1997, the brand was doing about $650 million in sales and was distributed in 29 countries. Today, Hilfiger generates $1.8 billion in sales and is sold in 79 countries, Connolly said.

Among Connolly's marketing initiatives were the ongoing sponsorship of the Tommy Hilfiger at Jones Beach Theater summer concert series; sole sponsorship of the VH1 "Save the Music" concert on the South Lawn during the Clinton administration, and product placement with an accompanying ad campaign that tied in with the thriller "The Faculty."

He also signed Jewel, Lenny Kravitz, the Rolling Stones, Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Kate Hudson, Lauren Bush, David Bowie and Iman to appear in Hilfiger ads, and inked fragrance deals with Beyoncé Knowles and Enrique Iglesias. Connolly was the executive producer of "The Cut," Hilfiger's new reality series that runs through Aug. 25 on CBS.

Connolly's successor hasn't been named yet.

Prior to joining Hilfiger, Connolly was senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Polo Ralph Lauren for a year; before that he was senior vice president at NBC, responsible for marketing at CNBC and MSNBC, for a year and a half. Earlier in his career, he spent seven years at Ikea as chief marketing officer of North America, and also worked at Macy's for nine years, where he rose to store manager.

Connolly was known to wield a lot of power over the creative end at Hilfiger, which in recent years has struggled with its identity, an eroding wholesale business and increased competition from specialty stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle and Aeropostale. The brand has gone through several incarnations, from preppy to rock 'n' roll to hip and urban and back to preppy. Connolly switched ad agencies multiple times, working with Toth Brand Imaging, Arnell Group, Deutsch, Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners and Lloyd & Co. The upcoming fall campaign, "Fresh American Style," was once again created by Toth, as the company attempts to return to its all-American roots.Despite the naysayers, Connolly believes the message has always been consistent.

"It's always been about pop culture and what's important to people," said Connolly. "When Britney Spears was the hottest person, we were with her; when Jewel became the hottest person, we were with her. People like our brand, and six out of 10 people want to buy the brand, and nine out of 10 people have bought the brand, according to our internal research," he added.

According to the WWD100, a survey last year of the most recognizable brands among American consumers, Hilfiger came in at number 12. Of the top 10 designers recognized by women, Hilfiger was number two, behind Calvin Klein.

Although the company has had difficulties the past few years, Connolly said the brand continues to perform well throughout Europe and he sees the American business getting back on track. "The product lines are being seen very positively. David Dyer [chief executive officer] has restructured everything, which is much more streamlined, and there are positive sales trends in some of the divisions."

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